Tuesday, January 18, 2022
Home Game I’ve never been a huge Travis Head fan, but I look forward...

I’ve never been a huge Travis Head fan, but I look forward to him proving me wrong



There’s no two ways about it: yesterday was just about the perfect start to a home Ashes series – obviously from an Australian point of view.

England all out 147 by tea on Day 1 would have been gleefully accepted before play by anyone on the Australian side of the ledger – from me to you guys and to Patrick James Cummins himself.

And on Cummins, his first day out as Australia’s 47th men’s Test captain went pretty bloody swimmingly.

Figures of 13.1 overs, three maidens, 5-38 maker for as good a first day in the big office as he could’ve hoped for. An opening DRS blot will be quickly forgotten, as he became the first Australian captain since Michael Clarke to take a Test five-for.

It meant that Australia was batting from the start of the evening session, and that gave me some time to put some thoughts down a topic that’s been rumbling in my mind for the last few days.

Anyone who’s read my columns or comments over the last few years and especially anyone who follows me on Twitter would know that I’ve never been a massive rap on recalled Australian No. 5 Travis Head.

Travis Head

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Over the years I’ve lamented his lazy, wafting blade outside off stump that has historically left him open any number of dismissal methods with maddening regularity.

I’ve been dismayed by the number of times he’s thrown starts away or lost concentration after facing a considerable but not significantly large number of balls.

It’s been a frustrating element to his game, and it’s meant that his place in any given Australian side has been far from given. His first Test was in October 2018, and his first limited-overs games came in 2016, yet this First Ashes Test is just his 20th, and he’s played only 42 ODIs and just 16 T20Is.

And it’s frustrating because his talent is clear. He very obviously can bat very, very well.

Coming into this Ashes series, I was once again ambivalent towards his selection and probably leaned toward Usman Khawaja earning the nod at No. 5 for reasons of perceived heightened reliance that may or may not be warranted.

With Cameron Green at No. 6 and a debutant wicketkeeper to follow, I liked the argument that Khawaja’s experience ahead of a couple of new or newish players in the middle order just made a lot of sense.

From a pure performance point of view this summer their Shield returns were even pretty similar.

Khawaja had made 460 Sheffield Shield runs at 65 compare to Head’s 394 at 49. Khawaja had two centuries and two 50s to Head’s two and one. Head had a better time of it in the state one-dayers, with his 230 against Queensland another innings of significance.

Head really only had age on his side, and I was a long way from being convinced that was enough.

But he got the nod for the Brisbane, and Australia’s brilliant start to the Test means that a win from here will probably ensure an unchanged side for Adelaide – Head’s home deck – next week.

Essentially, Travis Head over the next week and a bit can lock his place in the side down for the summer with a couple of reasonable performances.

This time two seasons ago I wrote about Head and Matthew Wade being the only unknown quantities in the Australian top order and that they “could provide the final elements in a balanced side that Australian fans have been dreaming of for the last few troubling years”.

The same applies to Head two years on, funnily enough, but now he’s the only question mark, especially when it looks as though George Bailey and his selection panel have declared Marcus Harris as the opener-designate in the ongoing concussion absence of Will Pucovski.

So once again Head is playing for his Test future, but this time I’m looking forward to him eliminating the doubts I’ve had about him as a genuine Test bat over the years.

Clearly his form this summer has been strong.

Both his Shield centuries saw him come in at No. 4 with South Australia two down for 60 or 70 and both saw him build a significant partnership with whoever was willing to support him at the other end. His second ton came after SA were forced to follow on against Queensland, having been rolled for 102 in the first innings.

SA were 1-22 in the fourth over on the one-day game when he came in, and he added 244 with Jake Weatherald.

He’s making scores and he’s making them when needed, which is exactly want you want from your No. 4 or 5 bat. He’ll turn 28 during the Boxing Day Test, so you do have to wonder if a bit of maturity has finally befallen upon his game.

Hopefully that proves to be the case this summer.

Australia’s magnificent bowling effort on Day 1 should have given the top order plenty of time to add to England’s ropey start to the Ashes series, but Brisbane’s weather had other ideas.

It means that Head may get the chance to start proving me wrong today in Brisbane, though I obviously wouldn’t mind if he doesn’t. The longer he has to wait to bat today, the better the situation for Australia in this match becomes.

But the point remains. Whenever he walks out to bat in this series, I hope he can take that welcome next step.

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